Thursday, 29 May 2014

Traversing No Man's Land

Tomatin 35 1978 - Cadenhead Small Batch - 44.1%

Old gold

Admittedly, I'm not the most experienced of whisky drinkers, but I've found that the world of independent bottlings can be a bit of a minefield. Certainly, there are some bottlers out there that consistently release fare that rarely disappoints (and occasionally sparkles). However, you can also fall victim to bottles of dross that have been matured in tired barrels and pepped up with weird, but not always wonderful, cask finishes. This is where the internet can come in bloody handy. This 'series of tubes' has amplified exponentially the power carried by word of mouth . To put it another way, in the information age, reputation is king.

Over the past four years, I've managed to plough my way through the independent whisky scene without ever stumbling into a dram bottled by Springbank's WM Cadenhead, a bottler with a very good reputation. I'd also managed somehow to sidestep trying any independent releases of Tomatin, despite being very impressed by virtually every distillery release I'd got my hands on. So, when given the chance to kill two birds with one nosing glass, I jumped at it. 

Huge thanks to Ben Cops for the sample; the biggest Tomatin-head I know.

Classic Tomatin profile and still showing signs of youth, when considering the age. Heather and red peppers to kick off, with a wave of caramel soon to follow. A little time to develop brings a rich creaminess and a mild stearate note. Lovely and complex.

With water, the nose becomes quite fruity with glace cherries and toffee enveloped in a light smoky blanket.

Instant hit of grapefruit. Cedar followed by old leather; reminds me of my old headmaster's study. The wood is certainly not shy and there's a touch of astringency, although this is more from the citrus than the wood. Challenging and yet immensely enjoyable. The more this opens up, the more I'm reminded of some of the older OB Highland Parks.

The introduction of water forces the citrus into a corner, amplifies the other flavours and introduces a sweet, spearmint note. Towards the end there's more grapefruit, light ash, white pepper and walnuts.

Mild pepper, star anise and drying wood.The ghost of the grapefruit makes an appearance; slightly bitter but warming. Impressively long and keeps you coming back for more.

The finish is somewhat hampered by water but overall the whisky doesn't suffer as a result.

Powerful and complex. Not immediately accessible but a little persistence is rewarded by a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If this is any indication of what Cadenhead has to offer, count me in.

Grade: A
One to sit back and savour.

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